The Wm. T. Spaeder Company has been a family run business since the early 1900’s. From this time, we’ve seen many changes in the economy and innovations in construction technology. We’ve continued to grow and expand, adapting, learning and thriving on the challenges that come with all the turns and twists of the industry within which we work. My name is Tim Spaeder, and I’m a retired third generation partner. Below is a brief timeline that spans the period from the company’s inception to the present as well as how we have evolved over the years.
Wm. T. Spaeder (my grandfather) began his business in 1914 working out of his parents home. His career was soon interrupted by World War One, when he enlisted in the United States Navy.
(Left: My grandfather in navy uniform. Right: My grandparents wedding photo.)
After performing his duty for his country, WT returned to Erie, married our grandmother, Julia Lochner, and resumed his business. Young Bill purchased a World War One Army barracks, and used the lumber to construct a shop behind his newly built home at 730 East 25th Street, during the early 1920’s. Among our grandfather’s earliest employees were his brothers Lawrence and Carl. So you see, the Wm. T. Spaeder Company has been a family business from the very beginning.
(The shop and pipe storage took up our grandparent’s entire back yard! Perhaps you can see why the Spaeder family has always been so grounded.)
WT’s business continued to prosper until the Great Depression, which brought most construction to a halt. Luckily, a new fashion accessory, the zipper, came into use at that time. The Talon Company that was located in Meadville was the first manufacturer of zippers. Their manufacturing facilities were constructed in the 30’s and WT did their mechanical work. So it was the humble zipper that got our Company through the Great Depression!
World War Two was the next major challenge to the business, with a shortage of materials, and manpower due to the war effort. Even so, our grandfather rode out the storm. In the late 1940’s WT’s children also began working in the business. He and our grandmother had 11 children and all of them except two, came into the business.
(This photo was taken on our family farm the day before my father, second on the left, went off to serve in the US Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.)
After the war, with an energetic second generation active in the business, the business started to grow. The Wm. T. Spaeder Company began to be recognized as a leader in industrial, institutional and commercial mechanical contracting. In about 1956, the company relocated from the building behind our grandparent’s home to 448 East Third Street.
(448 East Third Street – It was the Polish Falcons Club before our grandfather purchased the building. WT added the metal building to the North.)
1960’s – 1980’s
You may be surprised to learn that our grandfather had very little formal education; he didn’t even finish grade school, but you could not call him uneducated. He was a self-educated and a self-made man. In addition to having the moxie to found the Wm. T. Spaeder Company, he was an inventor and a manufacturer. He even held two patents, one for the “Wonder Liquid Level” and one for the “Reflecto Target” an aid used by surveyors. Granddad passed away in 1963.
Wonder Liquid Level
Nine of his children then became partners and assumed ownership of the business, and Dave Spaeder was appointed president. The company continued to grow and prosper. In 1966, we relocated to our current location on 18th Street. At that time we only occupied a small area of the original building. Several tenants occupied the remaining space. Business really took off in the late 60’s and in the 70’s and we soon occupied the entire building.
Current Offices of Wm. T. Spaeder Co., Inc.
Major projects of the era included the construction of PPG and of Carr Hall at Allegheny College, both in Meadville; Erie City Hall; St. Vincent Hospital Expansion ’72 and the erection of buildings 7 and 12 and the diesel repair building in Grove City for General Electric and Cummins diesel in Jamestown.
In 1994 we expanded by adding our present fabrication facility and larger office area. In 1995, Dave Spaeder retired, and his son Terry was appointed president.
Our Fabrication Facility
Notable projects in this era includes: The rebuilding of several paper machines and a waste treatment plant at Hammermill; multiple projects for Blair New Process in Irvine and Warren, PA; Major expansions at St. Vincent, Hamot and the VA Medical Centers; multiple projects for the local colleges and universities, and many other school projects.
2000s to Present
In 2016, Jay Spaeder stepped into the presidency. We’ve also opened offices in Pittsburgh and Buffalo to meet the expanding demand for work. The current company ownership consists of five of Wm. T. Spaeder’s grandchildren. Additionally, six members of the fourth generation are also work at the company and even one fifth generation member.
Our project portfolio continues to grow and we enjoy working with past customers as well as meeting new ones and accepting new projects. During this time, some of our work included renovations at the Erie County Courthouse, the Federal Courthouse Complex in Erie and the Erie Insurance Arena. One of the largest and most complex projects we have completed to date is the installation of all process piping, plumbing and fire protection at the Lake Erie Biodiesel Fuel Plant. Take a look at our web portfolio for more detailed project highlights.
From a very humble beginning in 1914, the Wm T. Spaeder Company has grown to be the regional leader in the mechanical contracting business. My career at Spaeder Company began over 48 years ago. There have been many changes in our business since then. Technology has revolutionized the mechanical contracting business; bidding and design work are now done on a computer. We are now doing 3D models of some of our projects — I remember when it was all pencil and paper. Equipment such as man-lifts has made construction much easier. Improved materials and installation techniques have also had a huge impact on our business.
At the beginning of my career, our company did mostly industrial work and Hammermill Paper Company was our largest single account. Hammermill has since closed, and the industrial base in Erie has diminished considerably. Although industrial work continues to be an important sector, we are now doing a very considerable amount of work in the institutional sector, with hospitals and colleges becoming some of our best clients. We’re also focusing on some niche markets, including water and wastewater treatment plants and multi-unit residential projects. We have greatly expanded our service department in recent years as well. Additionally, we now include full residential, HVAC and plumbing installation / repair in our scope of business.
Through (now) four generations of Spaeder company ownership, the company management team has always been hard working, practical and fiscally prudent. Its conservative approach to finance has given the company a strong financial position. The company’s relationship with its customers, vendors, bonding and insurance companies are excellent.
Throughout the entire history of our company, the most important factor in making our company successful is the support of our loyal, experienced and industrious employees. They are the folks that make it ALL happen. We’ve served our customers for over 100 years and look forward to working on a second century of progress and prosperity.
If you look at this picture of Wm. T. Spaeder, you can see that my cluttered desk is actually a genetic thing!
- Wm. T. Spaeder Co. – Over One Hundred Years - June 12, 2019
Very interesting read Tim. I enjoyed the historical perspective.
Lovely, I’ll let him know.